Chandana Maitra, and Prof. D.S Prasada Rao,  School of Economics Discussion Paper No. 508 March 2014, School of Population Health, The University of Queensland, and School of Economics, The University of Queensland.

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In recent years, the process of economic growth in the Indian economy has been characterized by a peculiar divergence between the indicators of poverty and those of food security – the paradox of rising undernutrition and declining poverty over time. Given above, an important question that arises is, whether there is something inherent in poverty that drives food insecurity or whether the two phenomena are independent. The answer to this question has important policy implication because it tells us, in targeting the poor anti-poverty policies might lose sight of the food insecure households, nested in apparently non-poor households. Against this backdrop, the present paper attempts to explore the relationship between poverty and food security in terms of an experience based measure of food security, using an urban cross section sample. The experiential measure is based on a food security scale which was constructed by adapting the U.S. Household Food Security Survey Module (HFSSM) in a setting of 500 low income urban slum households in Kolkata, in 2010-11. Based on the scale, households were classified as highly food secure, marginally food secure and food insecure. The relationship between poverty and food security was then examined by applying a simultaneous ordered probit model, recognizing the possible endogeneity in the relationship. Results indicate that a poor household is likely to be more food insecure, given certain socioeconomic characteristics, with the policy implication that poverty alleviation measures would be effective in eliminating food insecurity. Apart from poverty, the other factors which significantly affect household food security status include household size and composition, gender and education level of the household head, indicating need for multi-pronged intervention in eliminating food insecurity.